Archive for April, 2015
One in five teens suffers from mental illness, but many don’t want to discuss their struggles, making diagnosis more difficult. That’s the impetus for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Say it Out Loud campaign…to get young people talking. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil visited NAMI’s Richmond headquarters and met some young people who are doing just that.
It hasn’t made many headlines, but this is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month—and Virginia has announced that more than 24,000 crashes statewide last year were attributed to distracted drivers. Those distractions caused both fatalities and thousands of injuries. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state officials stress that such accidents can be prevented.
A Floyd County bailiff has lost his job after expressing his political opinion and Madison County Supervisors got into a spat about whether or not to post the national motto in their chambers. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VA News link on vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.
Some local branches of the NAACP and other community organizations are speaking out about police treatment of African-Americans—especially the recent high-profile incidents in the U.S. where some have died while in custody or under pursuit. They’re taking their concerns on the road with a listening tour that will enable citizens to share their own personal experiences – and they’re hoping the “Spring Social Justice Series” will help spark wholesale changes in the criminal justice system.
As advocates mark National Crime Victims Week, in Virginia they’re marking the 20th anniversary of the state’s very own Crime Victims Bill of Rights. But experts say those provisions, said to have given sufferers more rights with teeth, are also more relevant now as the state deals with proposals to address campus sexual assaults. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.
Virginia lawmakers are all hoping to avert another round of those indiscriminate federal budget cuts known as sequestration. But as Matt Laslo reports, it seems like those budget cuts are barreling back down on the commonwealth next year.
Virginia’s energy-providers would still like to see a large-scale commercial offshore wind turbine project off the state’s coast by the year 2020, but getting there is challenging—at best. Bids to build two pilot turbines are astronomical right now, and the Authority tasked to keep the project’s momentum going is looking for ways to significantly lower costs.
As the public conversation continues about the appropriate use of police force, a number of state lawmakers are proposing the use of body-worn cameras by public safety personnel to document what happens during traffic stops and other interactions. That has prompted a Secure Commonwealth Panel subcommittee to thoroughly examine all of the issues surrounding use of the cameras in the Commonwealth. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they turn out to be far more complex than just strapping on a camera and recording police business.
Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe was dealt a setback in its effort to gain federal recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Matt Laslo has the details on how civil rights groups and a big casino may be winning the century’s old fight of the Pamunkey.
A coalition of nonprofit and advocacy organizations says the General Assembly’s legislative process needs to be more open and clear to the public. Members of “Transparency Virginia” attended more than three-quarters of the Assembly’s 101 committee and subcommittee meetings during its recent session. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they found a less-than-stellar record of adequate notice for meetings, recorded votes, and full consideration of bills.
Students at the University of Mary Washington spent three weeks sitting-in at the administration building – demanding the school consider selling its investments in coal. As a major producer of greenhouse gas, they argued that fuel was putting the Earth at risk, but the school’s board didn’t see the point, and its president says two students will be prosecuted. Sandy Hausman has details.
One Virginia business raised the question of whether people who post negative online reviews of businesses can be legally required to identify themselves. Their case went to court, but won’t be decided in the Commonwealth. And the General Assembly has made certain that horse racing and off track betting will continue in Virginia in spite of problems at one of the state’s premier tracks. Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org.
Human-rights advocates are applauding the passage and benefits of Virginia’s first standalone sex trafficking law, which goes into effect this July. They say the new law is long overdue and puts the Commonwealth in step with other states that have passed similar measures. But they also say this should simply start the effort to pass laws that deter sex trafficking-which is the second fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the U.S.
Virginia is juggling a host of contentious alternative energy proposals. An offshore wind farm, hydrofracking in a national forest and a 550-mile gas pipeline that cuts through the state.
But there’s one project on the Eastern Shore that has moved along quietly despite being the largest of its kind in the state. Pamela D’Angelo reports.
Governor McAuliffe will soon have to decide whether to veto a bill that limits police use of drones without search warrants or accept the fact that the Senate decided to reject his amendments. That’s just one of the bills that the General Assembly debated today during its annual Reconvened Session.
A bipartisan agreement unveiled by state lawmakers and Governor McAuliffe will expedite the construction of two new veterans care centers in Virginia. To set the plan into motion, the governor proposed amendments to recently passed legislation that would have released state funding only AFTER a U.S. Veterans Affairs grant was awarded — but state officials say such a delay is unacceptable.
The Virginia Department of Forensic Science has achieved its 10,000th DNA data bank hit. The record-setting cold hit was announced by Governor McAuliffe, who joined U.S. Senator Mark Warner for a tour of the state forensic lab that analyzes DNA and other crime-scene evidence.
Virginia Commonwealth University is suddenly in need of a replacement for the man who’s been the face of the school for the past few years. And city leaders in Virginia Beach were surprised to learn that an employee had been given access to millions of dollars in official bank accounts.
In light of the recent data breach at Anthem and what some believe will be an inevitable cyberattack by sophisticated terrorists, Governor McAuliffe is imploring tech-savvy business leaders and IT professionals to get aggressive. He’s asking them to take additional steps to identify, assess, and defeat threats-as well as to help attract cybersecurity entities to the Commonwealth.
Gun-rights advocates who vowed to keep addressing an issue which they say violates civil liberties may have some ammunition when state lawmakers return to Richmond for next week’s Veto Session. The state ACLU’s executive director is sympathizing with advocates who say LEGAL concealed-carry permit-holders are being unfairly targeted by law enforcement in neighboring states that do not recognize those permits.
An interim study by the Virginia Department of Elections indicates that numerous localities have voting machines that are wearing out—and some have potential security problems. The investigation was prompted by reports of irregularities during last November’s election. The result could be a new and costly requirement to replace some widely used touchscreen voting machines.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in his hometown of Richmond Monday to discuss trade opportunities and obstacles with local business leaders. They especially focused on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which supporters say would open up improved trade between the 12 nations that are involved in negotiations.
People who smoke pot legally in Washington, DC but work in Virginia could be risking their jobs. And, a public magnet school in Fairfax is facing questions about its admissions process because of the high percentage of Asian-Americans among its student body.Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org.
Legislation signed by Governor McAuliffe creates what he says is the first state that establishes a trust account for certain people with disabilities. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil explains what the new law does.
While the Virginia ACLU applauds Governor McAuliffe’s signing of a number of bills this past legislative session, the organization opposes his amendments to several bills that had aimed to reign in the government’s powers of surveillance–and which passed the General Assembly overwhelmingly. The ACLU is asking state lawmakers to reject the amendments when they soon return to Richmond.
The practice of “streeting”—or releasing people with mental illnesses when psychiatric beds are not found for them—came to light in 2013 when that happened to Senator Creigh Deeds’ son, who later took his own life. But changes in civil commitment laws to reform the state’s crisis response system were subsequently approved and took effect last July. State officials have unveiled new statistics that reveal the effects of those reforms.